Thursday, July 30, 2009

High Density Hiking

Last Sunday I did a day hike in the mountains that shade Seoul National University, which was once a golf course for Samsung executives but is now home to students, classrooms, and laboratories. I took the #5516 bus a few kilometers to one of the trailheads, leading to a rocky hike that took me up 630 meters in elevation, and lasted about 5 hours. There were lots of people on my bus with backpacks and especially those collapsible hiking poles, and together with the other dozen or so different bus lines that converged and regularly deposited people wanting to get out of the streets for a day, we started up the mountain. I quickly forgot any idea that this was going to be a typical "walk in the woods" that I might find in Cincinnati. The streets in Seoul are crowded and so are the hiking trails. If you want to stop and look, or just breath the air, you get off of the path or else you'll get run over.

For me, this was just another indication that Seoul is a city that works for its people. Everyone there might have appreciated a few less people to walk around or get out of the way for. But everyone also must have appreciated how easy it was to get out of the streets and into this lovely natural area, from just about anywhere, by subway and bus. And, it's a lot more fun to people watch and worry about getting out of the way, than to be thinking that you're somewhere you shouldn't be, cause nobody else is there with you.

At the top I bought some new rice wine dipped from the galvanized pail by this friendly guy, for about $2.50.

If you've ever had "new wine" then you'll know what I mean - it's just finished fermenting and is maybe a few weeks old. This was made with rice instead of grapes but it had the same effervescence and yeasty flavor. I saw lots of people drink several glasses of this before heading back down. At the top were great vistas of the Seoul metropolis, with the Han river in the background.


But a real highlight was sitting down at the buddhist temple at the top with this simple bowl of noodles and bean sprouts, in a hot spicy broth. There is a donation box for whatever you would like to pay, including nothing. After you are done, you wash your own bowl and utensiles, and leave. I hiked down a different side of the mountain but, no matter, the #2 green subway line was right there at the bottom to greet me, and so I could confidently get on and navigate my return, having only to choose which of two directions to go.

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45 comments:

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